Help For Restless Legs Syndrome

If the underlying cause of RLS can be determined, long-term relief is possible.

If you’re one of the 12 million adults in the United States with restless legs syndrome, you know how disruptive the condition can be to both your sleep and your life. Although movement may bring relief for those creepy-crawly sensations, it is generally only temporary. However, RLS can be controlled by finding any possible underlying disorder. Often, treating the associated medical condition, such as peripheral neuropathy or diabetes, will alleviate symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes for Restless Legs Relief

P Many physicians suggest certain lifestyle changes &mdash such as decreased use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco — to reduce or eliminate restless legs. They may also recommend that certain individuals take supplements to correct deficiencies in iron, folate, and magnesium. And some studies have shown that maintaining a regular sleep pattern can reduce symptoms. If you find that your RLS symptoms are minimized in the early morning, for example, change your sleep patterns.

In 2005, ropinirole became the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for the treatment of moderate to severe RLS. The drug was first approved in 1997 for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Medical Treatments for Restless Legs Relief

Benzodiazepines (such as clonazepam and diazepam) may be prescribed for patients who have mild or intermittent symptoms. These drugs help patients obtain a more restful sleep but they do not fully alleviate RLS symptoms and can cause daytime sleepiness. Because these depressants also may induce or aggravate sleep apnea in some cases, they should not be used in people with this condition.

For more severe symptoms, opioids such as codeine, propoxyphene, or oxycodone may be prescribed for their ability to induce relaxation and diminish pain. Side effects include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and the risk of addiction.

In 2005, ropinirole (Requip) became the first drug to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for the treatment of moderate to severe RLS. It previously was prescribed mostly for people with Parkinson’s disease. Since then, two other medications, pramipexole (Mirapex) and gabapentin (Horizant), have been approved to help tame aggravating symptoms for moderate to severe cases of restless legs syndrome.

Unfortunately, no one drug is effective for everyone with RLS. What may be helpful to one individual may actually worsen symptoms for another. In addition, medications taken regularly may lose their effect, making it necessary to change medications periodically.